Razorbacks freshman running back Isaiah Augustave makes most of extended playing time

Arkansas running back Isaiah Augustave (23) carries the ball, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, during the third quarter of the Razorbacks’ 44-20 win over Florida International at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for today's photo gallery..(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FAYETTEVILLE -- When University of Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman talked with media members on Wednesday, he mentioned freshman running back Isaiah Augustave among the young players who could see an increased work load against Florida International.

"He may play a little more Saturday," Pittman said.

Augustave played a lot more as it turned out and helped Arkansas beat FIU 44-20 on Saturday night at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Injuries to running backs Raheim "Rocket" Sanders and Rashod Dubinion in the first half thrust Augustave into a big role as he had 14 carries for a team-leading 101 yards.

"It was great to see him get out there and use this game as a confidence booster," Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson said. "He's been practicing really hard.

"His opportunity presented itself today and he was prepared and ready for it. That's what you want to see from a young guy like Isaiah that just waits until his turn.

"When his number was called he took full advantage of it. I was extremely proud. I was making sure he got 100 yards. I kept telling him, 'Go out there. Keep running. Keep running.' "

Augustave gained 9 and 13 yards on his first two carries in the second quarter to help on a touchdown drive that put Arkansas ahead to stay at 14-13. None of his carries resulted in lost yardage.

"He ran unbelievable," Pittman said. "We handed it off one time to what really should have been a dead play and he got 12 yards."

In the third quarter, Augustave had eight carries for 56 yards, including a long run of 25 yards. His first two carries in the fourth quarter pushed his total to 88 yards.

"We were all like, 'Coach put him in! Put him in! We've got to get him to 100,' " senior guard Brady Latham said.

On the first play of Arkansas' final possession, Augustave had a carry for an 8-yard gain to get to 101. AJ Green then replaced him.

"I've just been really patient with all the guys in front of me," Augustave said. "Getting prepared for this moment."

Augustave has played in 10 games, but his primary role has been on special teams. He went into the FIU game with six carries for 21 yards.

"He waited his time, he ran hard, he'll do it again next week," Pittman said, looking ahead to the season finale against Missouri on Friday. "He's earned his playing time.

"I'm so happy for him and proud for him. He knows he's got to continue to work, but man, what a debut for him."

Pittman said Sanders injured his shoulder and Dubinion his knee but he doesn't know the extent of the injuries.

Pittman said the plan was to get more carries for Dubinion and Augustave against the Panthers of Conference USA.

"We were going to play them more than what we had, let's say that," Pittman said. "R-Dub got hurt, and Rocket got hurt as well.

"The great thing about it is we had the opportunity to practice Isaiah with the ones. It worked out well for us."

Pittman said inexperience had limited Augustave's opportunities on offense prior to Saturday night.

"His youth kept him off the field," Pittman said. "Understanding all the plays and calls and all that like most freshmen.

"But going into this week I wanted to see what he could do in a live game. We needed a shot at running back."

Green, a junior, is the leading rusher among Arkansas' running backs with 312 yards on 55 carries. Dubinion, a sophomore, has 82 carries for 260 yards.

Sanders, a junior and preseason All-American after rushing for 1,433 yards in 2022, has been limited to six games due to a knee injury and has 62 carries for 209 yards.

"We needed someone to make people miss, run over people, hit holes or whatever it may be with some urgency," Pittman said. "We thought it might put some urgency into that whole group as well by seeing that [Augustave] was going to get the opportunity to play."